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The Carlos Gardel Museum

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Listen to Carlos Gardel

After our great experience at El Querandí, we were all about tango. So the next day we decided to visit the Carlos Gardel Museum in Abasto. We showed up at the perfect time: a free tango class was just getting underway in the foyer of the museum. As we lumbered into the middle of the group, grinning from ear to ear and looking for pretty ladies, shrieks of terror echoed through the hall.

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel is the indisputable king of tango, and his face can be found everywhere in Buenos Aires, from street art and advertising, to posters in restaurants. Gardel was born in Tolouse, France in 1890, but his mother immigrated to Argentina when he was three. As a muchacho, he studied music and worked in a theater, finding success in his twenties as part of a singing duo with José Razzano. In the 1920s, Gardel took a tour around the world, and caused a sensation in cities from New York to Barcelona. Razzano would eventually become his manager.

Gardel was blessed with a rich, deep voice, as well as a gift for songwriting; he wrote the music to most of his tangos. And because he was so handsome, he became a popular actor in Argentine cinema, like a turn-of-the-century Will Smith. His last film was Tango Bar, wrapped just before his untimely death at the age of 45, when he perished in a plane crash in Colombia. The decades since his death have only seen him grow in popularity, though. How beloved does he continue to be? Well, this out-of-focus video of one his most famous songs has over a million views on YouTube.

The Museo Carlos Gardel occupies the house he bought for his mother, in his childhood neighborhood of Abastos, and provides a good overview to the singer’s life with a lot of memorabilia from his career. Not very large, you can get through it in a half hour, and it costs just a peso. We zipped through the exhibits extra-quick, because we were eager to join in the free tango course.

For two hours, we practiced the basics in the museum’s shaded walkway. Amazingly, there were more guys than girls in the class, so Jürgen and I had to share a partner: cheers to the game Chilean girl whose feet we made a bloody, bruised mess of. By the end of the session, we were both able to do the basic steps. Money.

Museo Carlos Gardel’s Website
Jean Jaurés 735
Tel: 4964-2015
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March 14, 2011 at 11:40 pm Comments (4)

El Querandí: Dinner and a Primer to the History of Tango

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There are a few ways to experience tango while in Buenos Aires. Milongas are probably the most popular option, where people of all skill levels join in the dancing. And there are recitals with excellent music, usually no dancing, but possibly the most authentic. Or, you can choose the full-on tourist experience of the dinner show.

Sexy Tango

We arrived at El Querandí at 9:30, and were promptly served dinner: salads, empanadas, steak and wine. While eating and awaiting the show, we met our table companions. Everyone in the restaurant was a foreigner; German, American, French, Japanese. That would usually be a turn-off, but not tonight. The crowd was happy and energetic, and besdies, you wouldn’t go to El Querandí if you wanted to be surrounded by locals. The show is an overview of tango’s history! Hardly a lesson most Argentinians would need.

Once the lights went up, idle chatter with our new friends immediately stopped: our attention was entirely captured by the show. Two hours of top-notch dancing and singing, with incredible music performed by an odd quartet consisting of a piano, violin, bass and accordion. Some of our favorite moments in the show were actually just the band playing by itself.

The initial acts were set in the outskirts of Buenos Aires in the late 1800s, when roughly-dressed workers and the immigrant women who worked in brothels were inventing a new art form. The way it turns out… and I had really suspected as much… and perhaps especially when it’s performed by young, skilled and beautiful people… and, yes, perhaps especially when they are dressed as rough-n-tumble dock workers and prostitutes… well, the tango can be … let’s just call it “passionate”.

There was singing as well, with a tribute to Carlos Gardel who popularized tango both at home and around the world. As the show moved into modernity, when tango found acceptance among all walks of Argentine society, the sets became more professional and the dress more genteel. The grace and timing of the dancers was amazing, and there were a number of beautiful moments. The dancers struck a lot of classic poses, which was well-appreciated since photography was permitted during the show.

Fine, it’s not the most authentic way to experience tango in the city, but El Querandí provides a wonderful evening of food and music. And anyway, “most authentic” doesn’t necessarily mean “most enjoyable”. We were amazed at how well-staged the show was, and how much fun we had. If you’re looking for an entertaining evening out, and a solid tango show, you won’t be disappointed in El Querandí.

El Querandí’s Website
Peru 302
Tel: 11 5199 1770 (Reservations Necessary)
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March 10, 2011 at 12:50 am Comments (3)
The Carlos Gardel Museum
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